They call them “love thefts” but what the police have actually uncovered is a group of travellers, a gang of 18 people based in Malaga and Madrid, who pray on the elderly, gaining their trust, before robbing them of their jewellery and other items of value  

Initially they are said to approach their victims using excuses such as their resemblance to a relative, searching for an address, or even with the offer of sex, so that they can their trust and then establish physical contact that allows them to take away objects of value without being noticed

On the occasions that the victim has realised they have been caught up in a crime the perpetrators then resort to intimidation and often to violence.

When items have been removed from the victim the gang then sell them on to gold or jewellery buying establishments although many items are now said to have been recovered and returned to their rightful owners.

The investigation began when the agents became aware of the traveling group, which operated mainly in Madrid and Malaga.  Having first gained the trust and friendship of their victim, mainly elderly people carrying jewellery or visible items of value, the gang members established physical contact with their victims, perhaps with a hug or other form of exchange, before removing the items of value.

The group members were divided into teams made up of a driver, usually male, who was in charge of transporting, locating the victims and facilitating the escape, as well as at least two women directly responsible for the theft.

In most cases, the victims didn’t realise that they had been deprived of their valuables until much later, often concluding that the items had simply been lost

The investigators were able to identify and detain the 18 members of the gang, who have been charged with at least 46 thefts, some of them committed with violence and intimidation. The agents have recovered various pieces of jewellery and top of the range watches that have since been returned to their rightful owners.

The National Police say that they would be pleased to talk to clubs, associations and groups where the elderly gather in order to provide advice on matters of crime prevention. Such a presentation can be requested by email at:

Safety Tips for Our Seniors on the Street

Always be suspicious when approached by strangers.

Do not display jewellery or valuables and keep your purse or wallet secure in large crowds

Do not accept proposals you may be offered in the street

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash

Keep cash cards and keys separate

Always try to be accompanied by a friend when drawing or paying in cash.